Just in time for the unfortunate end of this glorious football season, K-State's basketball schedule is about to get real. First, though, the 'Cats have a game against George Washington.
To be fair, GW is probably the best team K-State will have seen thus far, and at least the Atlantic 10 is a respectable conference (perhaps you remember Xavier?). Still, this is a team that was picked to finish 8th out of 14, got destroyed at California* and barely beat a completely lost (and winless) Austin Peay team on a neutral floor.
*Since Mizzou beat Cal by 39, and Cal beat GW by 27, the transitive property of basketball says K-State needs to beat GW by 66 to be on the same level as the Tigers. OK, that's probably not actually true, but if you have watched Mizzou play this year, you know that they're in a completely different stratosphere than Kansas State, and in fact most teams in the nation right now.
I'm no coaching genius, but it seems like Mizzou's success proves Frank Haith is a lot better than we thought and Coach A's run and press style can have serious negative effects when used with the wrong players. This is a Mizzou team made up of exactly the same players as last season (minus Laurence Bowers) and simply dominating the halfcourt game with quickness, incredible shooting, and unselfish basketball. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little jealous of our friends over at Rock M Nation.
Of course, Charleston Southern is still too fresh in my memory to think any win is a given, but I'd be a little more scared if K-State was playing George Washington the president than George Washington the university. Really, though, that's less of a knock on GW than a testament to the matchup problems a ghost would represent.
Even if it's just one, keeping an eye on man and ghost at all times would likely be impossible, and Frank would probably be wise to take all screens out of the offense. Luckily, the Wildcats will be facing five humans (or 4.5 if 5-5 freshman Malik Tonkins comes off the bench), and there are enough interesting storylines in this game for you to put off viewing the triumphant return of Community and Parks and Recreation for a couple hours this evening.
For K-State, I'm really hoping we get to see some significant strides from Jamar Samuels tonight. He seems like the type of guy who probably spent a lot of time eating and playing video games over Thanksgiving Break, but I would happily forgive all that if he can show some signs of being the leader this team needs him to be. In case it wasn't obvious, that means more than three rebounds, among other things.
It would be really great if Rodney McGruder could put together a full 40 minutes. I was extremely encouraged last game when he was all alone
at the three-point line on an entire side of the floor and decided to attack the basket rather than shoot a long jump shot, which resulted in two free throws. The same bit about three rebounds also applies to him.
The one guy for K-State that needs to just continue what he's doing is freshman stud Thomas Gipson, who looks very capable of shutting Jordan Henriquez-Roberts out of the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. Martavious Irving also looked interested in a starting spot, although I'm not yet convinced that he's more than a decent passer and a streaky shooter who can often be a liability on defense. For now, give me Shane Southwell and his
nonexistent shaky shooting.
Defensively, the top priority for Kansas State needs to be knowing where Tony Taylor is at all times. Only six players in Division I are shooting a better percentage than his ridiculous 12 of 19 from 3-point range, but if Bowling Green can hold him to 6 points in its awesome new arena*, then he should be stoppable for a Frank Martin defense.
*I cannot recommend highly enough that you stop reading this post — even if it means you don't come back — and click on this link if you have not yet seen Mikey "Rosco" Blair's "Stroh Center Rap." It is easily the greatest rap you will ever hear about the construction of a building, and it even earned Blair some facetime in the booth during a BGSU football game on ESPN. Honestly, I'm disappointed it took me almost 2 months to sneak it into a post. (h/t MeatGeek)
Taylor is clearly their best player, but GW also has a big man (Jabari Edwards) who blocks shots at a higher frequency than JO (36 in 16 GW games while averaging just over 15 minutes last season), a 6-8 Serbian assasin (Nemanja Mikic) who shoots it well from beyond the arc (around 43% this season and last), and a 6-5 junior (Lasan Kromah) who probably concerns some Islamaphobic members of Congress who don't know he was born in Queens and grew up in Maryland. He shoots better than 47% from 3, with some ability to slash to the basket.
In case you missed the pattern here, GW is THE BEST 3-point shooting team in the country, by almost a full two percent. The Colonials made 25 of 44 in their last three games, so Frank will probably want to go ahead and stay away from zone defenses and make sure his players are going over the top on screens.
GW doesn't give up a lot of points, which is bad news for a K-State team that has struggled with scoring at times this season, but great news if you like Wisconsin. Bo Ryan: Ruining beautiful basketball since 1983.
California beat GW by locking them down on defense, attacking the basket, then making some open threes during a soul-crushing 21-0 (!) run to end the first half. That seems like a good formula for a team that has a lot of capable but inconsistent 3-point shooters and once again finds itself in the top 10 in free throws attempted per game. At 67% from the line, it's almost like they're a real Big 12 (-2) basketball team!*
I am obligated to point out that K-State is not dead last in the (current) Big 12 (-2) because Texas A&M is shooting worse than 60%. This would be funnier if it wasn't still a whole lot better than K-State in nonconference last year.
See you tonight, everybody. If you're outside the region but inside the country, don't forget the game will once again be on ESPN3, just like every KSU game from here on out with the exception of 4 that are on ESPNU. Kudos, WWL.